Michiko Soriano & Philippe Gaeng: A Wedding in the Time of COVID
Newlyweds Michiko and Philippe Gaeng amid the backdrop of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City.
Marty Ilagan
Michiko Soriano & Philippe Gaeng: A Wedding in the Time of COVID
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2020 - 12:00am

(Conclusion)

If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there will be a wedding.

Frenchman Philippe Gaeng came to the Philippines in 2008, coincidentally, the year lovely Michiko Soriano flew to Paris for further studies during her junior term at the Ateneo de Manila.

A few years later in Manila, she launched a co-working space, WeCube, with Filipino-French friends. She met Philippe in the course of her work, and their first date was all of 2,000 steps — the steps Michiko needed to complete her quota for the day.

The newlyweds with the bride’s parents JJ and Minette Soriano, Judge Rowena Tan and the bride’s siblings Mischa and Mikael.

Michiko recalls that they were just “dating” for a couple of months till Philippe played over dinner this ‘60s French song, Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’amour by Barbara. Then he sang it to her silently and translated it line by line:

Looking at you smiling

Loving you without saying anything

It’s at that moment that I suddenly understood

I had reached the end of my journey

And I put my luggage down

You were there at the rendez-vous

No matter what can be said about it

I wanted to tell you

Tonight I thank you for yourself

No matter what can be said about it

I came to tell you

My most beautiful love story is you

***

The then engaged couple in Paris in September 2019.

They were engaged in Siargao in May last year. Unbeknownst to Michiko, Philippe’s mother had earlier given him a five-generation-old ring to give to her. And just before he proposed, the boat they were riding in Siargao toppled over — but thankfully, not the ring. He popped the question just after that.

Philippe and Michiko, who got her unique name because her parents JJ and Minette Soriano lived in Japan during the early part of their married life, decided on an October 2020 wedding in Tagaytay. Then ashfall rained on Tagaytay in January and to play safe, they decided to hold their wedding in Bohol instead.

Then came COVID-19. Unlike the ashfall, it wouldn’t go away.

“It did not take long for it to truly dawn on us that this situation would last longer than expected. Marrying in Bohol in October quickly seemed like an impossible dream. What to do then?”

“Marry first, celebrate later,” was their decision.

***

They set their wedding for July 14, Bastille Day, at the Pasay City Hall.

“My colleagues gave me an online bachelorette party, booking my calendar as if it was a meeting and I found them all there with Magic Mike virtual backgrounds complete with bachelorette games. My family gave both of us a surprise ‘Wedding Shower for Two’ at their home the Sunday beforehand,” recalls Michiko.

A few days before the wedding, Michiko got a message that the courthouse would likely be closed on July 14 because of someone at City Hall testing positive! Luckily, the premises were disinfected right away and reopened the day before the wedding.

Finally, D-Day dawned.

“It was a beautiful sunny morning. I took my time and had coffee with a close girlfriend for a little sendoff,” says Michiko, who still reported for work the day before, a Monday.

For her wedding day preparations, she could only have a few guests at her apartment due to the quarantine regulations of the building: the official photographer, Marty Ilagan; makeup artist Jorence Delimos and hairstylist Jean Villanueva, who completed her ‘50s look. Philippe had his grooming done by Brice Boidin of Koop, BGC and surprised everyone with his new mustache — growing it throughout ECQ.

“I was happy to have had one bridesmaid, Anne, and the rest of the bridesmaids hopped on a call to watch my hair and makeup done while catching up,” she narrates.

“I would not say it did not go without bumps along the way. The effects of the pandemic were still felt. My brother Migi and sister-in-law Jenny, being pregnant and close to her delivery date, could not be part of the ceremony to avoid the risk of getting exposed. On the day itself, the venue where we wanted to hold a quick photoshoot informed us that one of their guards tested positive.”

Judge Rowena Tan presided over the marriage rites with only seven people present — including Michiko’s parents, and her brother Mikael and sister Mischa as witnesses. The rest of the family and their entourage watched the ceremony online.

Despite the hiccups and the bumps on the road to City Hall — an overturned boat during the proposal, ashfall at the start of 2020, and a disruptive pandemic that does not seem to be abating,  the wedding was as perfect as the sunset on Manila Bay.

“The wedding was a brief one but we felt everyone’s love just being with us for 30 minutes to say ‘hi’ and give their well wishes,” says the bride.

The newlyweds had their post-nuptial photos taken along Manila Bay as their original venue for a photo shoot was closed due to a COVID-positive employee. But the results were astonishing! “It was a beautiful sunny day sandwiched by gloomy days that week,” recalls Michiko.

***

Michiko’s parents JJ and Minette also surprised the newlyweds with an intimate party in their home, with food catered by Cibo de Marghi. Margarita Fores surprised the newlyweds with a two-tiered mille-feuille wedding cake by Cibo and an extra bottle of champagne.

Special guests were Michiko’s paternal grandfather former National Security Adviser Noel Soriano, and her maternal grandparents Hernando Cruz and the former Paquita Lomotan, who survived a stroke exactly a year before the wedding, on July 14, 2019.

So, how are the newlyweds now?

“We’re currently enjoying our honeymoon at our apartment, until we can fully celebrate with all our friends and family!” chorus Philippe and Michiko. Their first date together was a walk around the block and it culminated in a big leap of faith — in the future, and in each other. Come what may. *

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

COVID-19 WEDDING
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